Monday, June 22, 2009
The Dutch oven that I use in my kitchen is Le Creuset’s 5.5-quart enameled cast iron. I use it for making soup and gumbo in the fall and winter. I also use it year-round to cook roasts or whole chickens in the oven because they come out tender, juicy, and evenly cooked every time. The cast iron heats quickly and evenly…and it retains the heat very well. The enamel coating is what I love because it acts like a non-stick surface, allowing me to use very little added fat when I use it to cook. This Dutch oven can go from the stove or oven to the table…any leftovers can go straight to the fridge in the pot to be reheated the next day!
Keep in mind that an enameled cast iron Dutch oven will require an initial monetary investment on your part. When not on sale, a Le Creuset Dutch oven can cost upwards of $200. I realize that’s not a small amount of money, but it’s easier to spend that much money if you think of it as a one-time investment. These are heirloom pieces that last a lifetime and are even be handed down through generations in some families. You can find them for much less on sale at Le Creuset outlet stores.
A non-enameled Lodge cast iron Dutch oven can be purchased for between $50 and $100, depending on size. The trade off is that this type of pot will need to be “seasoned” with oil before using to prevent your food from sticking in the new pot. Over time, cast iron continues to season, so sticking becomes much less of an issue.
No matter whether you opt to go with a basic cast iron Dutch oven or splurge on an enameled cast iron version, just do it! This is one essential kitchen tool that you want to make sure you have in your kitchen’s bag of tricks!!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
(1) Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil. When heated, add all veggies except the corn and sauté for 10 minutes.
(2) Add chicken meat. Sprinkle chicken/veggie mixture with the flour, and saute a minute or two longer to coat all the ingredients with the flour.
(3) Add chicken broth, corn, thyme, and black pepper to taste. Stir well with a whisk to combine. Cover, reduce heat to med-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(4) Meanwhile, combine 1/2 teaspoon parsley, Bisquick, and skim milk in a small bowl. Drop dumplings by tablespoonfuls onto the chicken/veggie mixture. Cover and cook at med-low for another 15 minutes. The key is to SIMMER the dumplings without letting the mixture boil!!
(5) To serve, put two ladles of the chicken/veggie mixture in a bowl and top with two dumplings.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Why is a convenience item in my Foodie Hall of Fame? Because they taste good and are so versatile, that’s why! It’s just Michael and I at home…although our cat, Lucy, manages to beg a bite or two from us…so we can easily get two meals from each chicken. We normally eat half of the chicken “as is” the first night with a salad and a simple side dish. Then I remove the meat from the other half of the chicken and put it in the fridge to use the next night. If I plan to use the leftover meat later in the week, then I’ll freeze it in a freezer bag.
The leftover meat can be used in all sorts of ways. I use it to make chicken salad sandwiches, homemade soups, chicken enchilada filling, or yummy chicken and dumplings. Hmmm…now that I think of it, my yummy chicken and dumpling recipe might just be this Sunday’s Recipe of the Week!! Having the chicken already cooked and chopped up makes the next dinner a snap to put together. After a long day in the office, even a foodie who loves to cook appreciates being able to get a tasty dinner on the table as quickly as possible!!
Now it’s your turn…let me know how YOU use rotisserie chickens in your foodie adventures!!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Asian Glazed Spare Ribs
3 pounds pork spare ribs or pork loin back ribs
Season salt or rub of your choice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 teaspoon paprika1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1. Cut spare ribs into serving-size pieces. Place ribs, bone side down, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
2. Sprinkle w/season salt. Cover and roast at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Drain.
3. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a bowl; brush some of glaze on ribs. Roast uncovered 30-45 minutes longer or until meat is tender, brushing occasionally with remaining glaze.
Note: if your rack of ribs is larger than 3 lbs., you’ll have to adjust the glaze ingredients accordingly to make sure you have plenty of yummy glaze for ALL of your ribs!
Now for today’s kitchen spotlight….
A utensil that I use a LOT in my kitchen is my collection of spoonulas. A spoonula is basically a combination spoon and spatula. Spoonulas are great for scooping mayo out of the jar and then mixing up a tuna or chicken salad. I also use them when I make one-dish casseroles or pasta dishes. I can stir my veggies as they sauté and then use the spoonula to serve the finished product as well. I love to give spoonulas as a present to people, because many of my friends and family have never heard of them.
You can buy these handy utensils nearly everywhere these days, but the silicone ones found at Williams-Sonoma are my personal favorite. They have nice maple wood handles, and the silicone is heat-resistant to 800 degrees. They’re sturdy and made to last…I’ve had mine for five years, and they still look brand new despite nearly daily use!!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
What I like best about Giada’s recipes is that they are simple, mostly quick to make, and consistently turn out great! These recipes won’t keep you in the kitchen for hours, but they have a ton of great flavor. This cookbook features “classic” Italian dishes, but it also contains a lot of fresh, modern takes on Italian cuisine.
My two favorite recipes from the book are the yummy Salsa all'Amatriciana and the Simple Bolognese Sauce. Both take less than an hour to make from start to finish, but they are full of flavor. To make them even easier, I make both of these sauces with canned San Marzano tomatoes. Every time I serve the Amatriciana sauce to my dinner guests, they always ask for seconds. Then they rave and rave…and then they ask for the recipe!!
I highly recommend Everyday Italian to anyone looking to expand their repertoire of Italian recipes.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
One try and we were hooked…Casino el Camino hits the foodie trifecta: fun atmosphere, fantastic food, and it's inexpensive to boot! If it's a pretty day, you can sit outside in the quiet(ish) courtyard. If there are no seats outside, you can head inside to dine among the “eclectic” décor…something that I can best describe as “Goth meets gargoyles”!! We love the burgers here so much that we braved the Saturday night crowds on 6th Street last weekend to get a much-needed burger fix! We had to pay $7 to park in a garage two blocks away, but at least we burned a few calories before gorging ourselves on burgers and fries ;)
We had the Chicago Burger again this time: ¾ lb. of flame-grilled angus beef, roma tomato, romaine lettuce, cheddar, bacon, and their amazing shallot mayo. So good!! Michael and I shared an order of hand-cut fries on the side. This burger is so huge that I can only eat half of it in one sitting, but that's ok. It just means I get to eat the other half the next day for lunch!! Casino el Camino has a full menu of tasty burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches, including veggie options: http://www.casinoelcamino.net/menu.php
The next time you're in Austin, put "eat burger at Casino el Camino" at the top of your "to do" list. I promise that you won't be disappointed!!!
Monday, June 8, 2009
According to the company’s website, “Ceramic is by far the best material for successful cooking and baking! Only ceramic is able to diffuse the heat slowly and evenly, to create perfectly browned gratins, tasty lasagna, and succulent cakes.” Emile Henry’s signature glazed ceramic is indeed very versatile. Dishes can go from the freezer, to the oven, and then to the dishwasher…and the cookware is also microwave safe. Best of all, the shiny glaze doesn’t scratch, is chip resistant, and also acts as a natural non-stick surface. That means clean-up is a BREEZE!
My personal Emile Henry collection includes a loaf pan, an 8x8 square baker, a pie plate, and an oval gratin dish. The loaf pan makes quick breads that don’t stick and come out perfectly browned and evenly cooked every single time. The square baker is great for evenly cooked cakes, moist brownies with chewy edges, and small casseroles. The gratin dish is designed to make homemade au gratin potatoes, but I use it for a casserole dish with excellent results as well.
I can’t say enough good things about Emile Henry products…I LOVE mine!! If you’d like to add a piece or two of this heirloom cookware to your kitchen, you can find it at Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, and Crate & Barrel. Prices average from about $35 for the loaf pan to $70 for the 13x9 baker. In my experience, you can also find Emile Henry products deeply discounted throughout the year at Williams-Sonoma outlet stores. We like to give the following set as a wedding gift to friends and family: an Emile Henry loaf pan, a package of some yummy quick bread mix, a set of spoonulas, and a set of pretty dish towels.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Sometimes comfort food is just what you want and need...food that reminds you of your childhood, simpler times when all you had to do was show up and dinner was right there waiting for you ;)! For many people, meatloaf is high on their list of comfort foods. Yet some people turn up their noses at meatloaf. I think I know why.
Meatloaf gets a bad rap because it can be...how do I say this nicely?...a bit BORING! It doesn't have to be dry and boring , though. I make a killer meatloaf that makes converts out of even the staunchest of meatloaf haters. This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe that I originally found in a cookbook by famous Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme.
I just couldn't make the recipe as it was originally written, though...it contained a STICK of butter and was made with fattier ground beef. But the recipe sounded so tasty that I figured out how to keep the essence of the recipe and still be kind to my heart...and my butt!
Makes 6 servings
- 1 tbs Cajun seasoning of choice. (I normally use Chef Paul's Meat Magic)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbs. Land o Lakes light butter w/canola
- Small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely diced
- 1/2 of a green pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbs. Tabasco (I especially like the garlic variety)
- 1 small can evaporated milk
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 lb. ground turkey (93% lean)
- 1/2 pound lean ground beef (93% lean)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the veggies, Tabasco, bay leaves, and seasoning. Saute about five minutes, until onion is translucent.
2. Add the evaporated milk and ketchup to the veggies; stir. Cook this mixture for about 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and let the mixture sit and cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°.
4. Put the ground turkey and beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, the cooked veggie/milk/ketchup mixture, and the bread crumbs. Mix by hand until everything is just combined. Don't overmix or your meatloaf or it will come out tough!!
5. Put the meatloaf in an ungreased non-stick loaf pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven up to 400° and cook for 30 more minutes.
This meatloaf is full of spicy flavor and has a great texture! I usually serve it with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Another good thing about this recipe is that the leftovers taste even better the next day!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
- Organic field greens
- 4-5 sliced strawberries (we sub in dried cranberries in fall/winter)
- 1/3 cup chopped glazed pecans (or any glazed nut you have)
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Newman's Own Lighten Up Raspberry-Walnut vinaigrette
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Ad hoc works like this: for only $49/person, you get a lovely four-course meal. The first course is a salad, the second course is your main dish, the third course is a cheese plate, and the fourth course is dessert. One set menu is served nightly…what they serve is what you eat, basically. We looked at it as an opportunity to sit back and let the staff feed us what was fresh and local that day. What a fun foodie adventure it was!!
Here is what we ate on the night when we dined at ad hoc.
First course: The first thing the waitress brought to our table was a yummy haricot vert and corn salad. It was served with shaved radish, caramelized leeks, and an avocado green goddess dressing. The combination of super-fresh veggies and a creamy dressing were just out-of-this world! It was a great start to our meal.
Main course: The entree that evening was a “study” in BBQ. We were served a plate of pulled pork, the most tender deboned beef short ribs, and a a few very spicy baby back ribs. The sides were baked borlotti beans and cole slaw. This is what I termed “upscale comfort food”. So good…we ate every bite of food on that plate!!
Cheese course: The cheese board that evening was a California blue cheese, homemade rosemary flatbread, and granny smith-caraway seed chutney. The cheese and flatbread were both stellar. However, I’m not a big fan of caraway seeds, so one bite of the chutney was enough for me.
Dessert: By the time dessert was served, we were getting pretty full. But not so full that we passed up the chance to dig into banana-nut cakes with coconut cream cheese icing. They were served with a deep chocolate drizzle sauce sprinkled with fleur de sel. The combination of the cake and bitter dark chocolate sauce was simply divine…not TOO sweet, and just the right portion.
I think that this was one of the best all-around meals I’ve ever eaten. The food was fresh, flavorful, and nicely presented. The restaurant was laidback, but not too casual…but not at all stuffy either! I subscribed to their e-mail list, so I receive their nightly menu every day. I’m not sure what’s worse: the drool that gets on the keyboard or knowing that I can’t jump in the car and eat there whenever I want!!
Monday, June 1, 2009
These bags are so easy to use:
1. Place your food and any seasonings in bag and seal firmly. Do not add water. Moisture in food provides sufficient steam. Spread items into an even layer. Do not overlap meats.
2. Lay steamer bag in microwave with indicated side up and cook using guidelines on bag. The bag inflates during cooking.
3. When the food is cooked, make sure to open the bag carefully, holding the top of bag where indicated.
So far, I’ve used these bags to steam corn on the cob and broccoli. Both came out perfectly cooked and yummy! I plan to branch out and try some of the recipes that are available at the Ziploc website this summer. You can find more info and recipes by going to http://www.ziploc.com/?p=b9 and navigating to the Zip ‘n Steam area.
I hope all of you will give these steamer bags a try…and let me know how you like them!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Saturday is officially wildcard day…when anything goes! So...what’s on my mind today? What it means to be a foodie. You hear the word thrown around a lot these days...it's sort of a catch-all buzzword to describe anyone who enjoys food or cooking. Today, I want to talk about what being a foodie means to ME.
To me, a foodie is someone who is truly passionate about food: trying new foods and recipes, discovering how foods taste - alone and in different combinations, and cooking for the people who they care about. In my case, this can mean food that I make myself at home or food that I discover on one of the many "foodie adventures" I go on. A big part of the joy in discovering a new food, recipe, or restaurant is in the journey. There's always something new to discover and add to my "bag of tricks"!
I personally try to be responsible with my eating…meaning, I try to keep my foodie splurges to once or twice a week. I'm always fighting two opposite desires: the desire to eat lots of yummy food with the desire to still fit into my clothes :)!! Treadmill time helps a great deal in this quest! Besides, I think that I savor my splurges just a little more when I look forward to them as a special treat.
The rest of the time I try to eat pretty healthy: whole grains, lean protein, and fresh fruit and veggies. We’ve been eating a lot of organic strawberries the past couple of weeks because they’re in season: which means they’re ripe, juicy…and also budget-friendly! Healthy doesn’t have to mean bland and boring, though. I’m a HUGE fan of the recipes that can be found in the searchable database at Cooking Light magazine’s Web site: www.cookinglight.com. Their recipes feature healthy food that is still full of flavor.
What I try very hard NOT to be is a food snob, but I know that I can be at times. I love good cheese, organic produce, and expensive chocolate because I've found that you usually get what you pay for. I also love going to a four-star restaurant for a fancy multi-course meal. But I'm also a big fan of the Southern comfort foods that I grew up with: mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings, fried seafood, etc. Food doesn't necessarily HAVE to be expensive or stuffy to be both tasty and soul-satisfying. My bottom line is pretty basic: If it tastes good, then I'll eat it!!
So that's what being a foodie means to ME. Now it's your turn to tell me what being a foodie...or an aspiring foodie...means to YOU!!!
Friday, May 29, 2009
They were sampling Beecher’s Flagship Reserve, which is actually made in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It’s not cheap at $22.95/lb., but we enjoyed it so much that we bought two small pieces. In fact, we loved this cheese so much that we were determined to get our hands on more of it when we got back home! As luck would have it, my beloved Central Market sells this cheese in its fantastic cheese shop…so we can easily buy more anytime we need a fix!
According to the Beecher’s Cheese website, Flagship Reserve is a special version of their signature Flagship cheese. It’s made only on days when the milk composition is just right. The last curds are used to produce this cheese. This allows for slightly lower moisture, a higher salt content, and a richer taste and texture…while still maintaining a clean, creamy finish. Flagship Reserve is traditionally cloth-bound and open-air aged. This allows a 14 to 16% moisture loss during aging, which concentrates its already rich flavor.
All I know is that this stuff is FANTASTIC!! You can eat it by itself, but I have also served it with some good-quality crackers and grapes. Beecher’s Flagship Reserve also pairs nicely with a Syrah or even with brown ale. I really want to encourage all of my cheese-loving friends to give this phenomenal cheese a try!!
P.S. Cowgirl Creamery makes superb cheeses as well. My favorite is Mt. Tam, a creamy triple-cream cheese. It’s firm, yet buttery…a bit similar to brie. By the way…Mt. Tam won 1st Prize in the soft-ripened category at this year’s American Cheese Society competition.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Ok...so now that I've actually started this little foodie blog, I figured that I should come up with some kind of organized format so this blog doesn't turn into a rambling, jumbled mess :)! So...starting with tomorrow's post, here's the kinds of things you can expect to see here on a daily basis:
Mondays – Kitchen Spotlight. I’ll share my favorite kitchen tools, gadgets, etc. The little (and not so little) things that make being a foodie so much easier and simpler.
Tuesdays – Restaurant Adventures. I’ll share restaurant news that I come across…and share dining experiences from some of my favorite restaurant meals, complete with pictures! What? YOU don’t take pictures of your food when you go out to eat?!?!?
Wednesdays – Lighten Up. I’ll take a high-calorie/high-fat recipe and show you how I lighten it up to make it healthier, but still delicious! Let’s face it…even if it’s healthy, you don’t want to eat it if it’s bland and boring!
Thursdays – Cookbook Corner. There are literally a bazillion cookbooks out there. I have amassed quite a collection over the years. I’ll share my favorites with you…and why I like them so much.
Fridays – Wendy’s Foodie Hall of Fame. The foods, places, and gadgets that are the cream of the crop!
Saturdays – Wendy’s Wildcard. I’ll talk about whatever foodie stuff is on my mind that day. You never know what might show up: an iTunes playlist for a themed dinner party, a special party menu, or just random foodie thoughts ;)!!
Sundays – Recipe of the Week. I’ll share a recipe every Sunday…either a standby from my files OR something new that I tried and liked. Either way, I’ll try to include a picture. Sneak peek for this Sunday: Grand Marnier French Toast. I know…you’re drooling already. Trust me…it’s ok. This one is indeed drool-worthy!!
Now to get this blog officially christened!! As with most things in life, food and cooking are very subjective. What I love you might not…and vice versa. For instance, I simply can’t STAND olives…ick! But…since this is my little corner of cyberspace, I’ll be sharing my personal opinions and thoughts ;)! My first official task is to list 10 items that I always like to have on hand in my kitchen. These are the items that are always in my pantry, fridge, or freezer. With these items on hand, I can whip up a quick meal in no time flat! These aren’t in any particular order, by the way.
1. Extra virgin olive oil. For everyday use, I buy Colavita in the bulk section of my local grocery store. For special occasions, I recently discovered an amazing artisinal olive oil in Napa Valley. Round Pond produces a line of four AWESOME small-batch olive oils: Italian, Spanish, meyer lemon, and blood orange. All of them are fantastic, but I really love the meyer lemon!! They sell their products online…so check them out: http://www.roundpond.com/index.cfm?method=pages.showPage&pageid=a4a132e7-071b-71a8-76e1-8e2cd6914dea
2. Parmigiano reggiano. Sure, it costs more than that grated Kraft stuff…but you get what you pay for, my friends! I buy it grated in small containers so it’s always fresh. I keep it in the fridge once I get it home.
3. Canned San Marzano tomatoes. Is there REALLY a difference? Yep…I’ve tried lots of canned tomatoes, but San Marzanos are just plain tastier. Why? According to my research, they come from a small town near Naples and were first grown in volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. The soil is thought to serve as a filter for water impurities. Compared to a roma tomato, San Marzanos are thinner and pointier. They also have fewer seeds, and taste much stronger and less acidic. Here's what one of the more commonly found cans looks like:
5. Feta. Good old Athenos is ok in a pinch, but I prefer to buy sheep’s milk feta at Central Market, a Texas-based upscale grocery store, when I can. The difference in both texture and taste is very noticeable. Any grocery store with a good cheese section should sell fresh feta, though.
6. Rustichella D’abruzzo organic penne. Michael brought this home from Whole Foods a few months ago.One try and we were hooked. Nice taste and texture. The only pasta we’ll buy now. http://markethallfoods.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_mh_info&cPath=1_48_84&products_id=244
7. Organic baby field greens. I keep these on hand all the time so I can whip up a salad at a moment’s notice. Didn’t your Mom tell you to “Eat your greens!” when you were growing up? She should have.
8. Rotisserie chicken. I prefer the ones at Costco…they’re bigger and cost less! This is a MUST in my kitchen for busy weeknight meals. I get two meals out of one chicken…we eat half of it plain roasted one night, then I use the other half in a pot of soup, a salad, or a casserole the next night!
9. Salsa. I live in San Antonio…where salsa is the condiment of choice. Sure, it’s great as a dip, but it has so many uses! It’s great on eggs…and you can make a killer southwest dressing by mixing it 50/50 with your favorite light Ranch dressing! My preference is Pace Thick and Chunky Medium.
1o. Newman’s Own Lighten Up dressings. Light Italian con Limon and Light Raspberry Walnut are my favorites. I try to eat healthy, but I don’t ever like to sacrifice taste. With these two dressings, I don’t have to!! They taste just as good as their full-fat counterparts, with much less fat. One is tart, the other sweet…so I have all my salad bases covered with these two bottles. It’s a crisis if we run out of either ;)!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I also love to create playlists on iTunes to play in the background while I cook...and while we eat. It just sort of sets the right "atmosphere" so to speak. So...I might share some of those playlists along the way as well. My husband Michael and I just took a trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley last month. We're trying to learn more about wine and wine pairings, so the Napa leg of the trip was very informative. I love to incorporate my love of travel with my love of food, so I'm sure I'll be sharing more of that along the way too.
I just wanted to introduce myself today. Tomorrow's first "official" post will tell you my Top 10 favorite "essential" foodie necessities!!! See you tomorrow!!!